The identity of the senior Pakistani intelligence official who is said to have provided the US information about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden has been revealed.
Pakistani investigative journalist Amir Mir, writing in the News International on Wednesday, quoted “well informed sources” within the country’s intelligence community as saying it was Brigadier Usman Khalid who had “shopped” bin Laden to the US in return for a reward of $25 million as well as US citizenship for himself and his family.
The news comes days after American journalist Seymour Hersh sensationally revealed the US had been told by a ISI source that bin Laden was hiding in the northern Pakistani town of Abbottabad.
The US has long claimed that the daring Special Forces raid which killed the former Al Qaeda leader had been a purely American exercise. Pakistan too has denied having any knowledge of the operation.
Mr Mir, one of Pakistan’s most-respected investigative journalists, writes: “Well-informed intelligence circles in the garrison town of Rawalpindi concede that the vital information about the bin Laden compound was actually provided to the Americans by none other than an ISI official – Brigadier Usman Khalid. The retired Brigadier, who has already been granted American citizenship along with his entire family members, persuaded Dr Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani physician, to conduct a fake polio campaign in the Bilal Town area of Abbottabad to help the Central Intelligence Agency hunt down Osama.”
In an article published in the London Review of Books on Sunday, Mr Hersh claimed that the US had lied to the world about the circumstances surrounding the May 2011 raid during which helicopter-borne US Navy Seals raided the compound in Abbottabad.
The White House has maintained that the Pakistani government had no idea about an operation which caused widespread anger in the country with Islamabad accusing the United States of infringing on Pakistan’s sovereignty.
However, Hersh claimed that bin Laden had been held in Pakistan as a prisoner of the ISI and that he had been given up to the Americans by a senior ISI officer after the US agreed to pay the officer the bounty of $25 million which had been placed on bin Laden’s head.
Hersh said his information came from a single source, a senior US intelligence official with “intimate knowledge” of the daring raid.
Hersh says the official’s version is backed up by sources within the US military as well as several “inside Pakistan”.
His sources also claim that information about bin Laden’s whereabouts was first provided to the CIA station in Islamabad by a so-called “walk-in” – a new intelligence source who drops in at a station office to offer up information – in August 2010, less than a year before bin Laden was killed.
The ISI official who offered up the information on bin Laden has since been relocated to the United States where he works as a “consultant” for the CIA, Hersh claimed.
Hersh’s article also claims that the entire operation had been known to Pakistani Army chief General Ashfaq Parevez Kayani as well as ISI Director General Ahmed Shuja Pasha. Both men claimed at the time that the US had not kept them in the loop before or during the operation.
Several newspaper reports have suggested that Pakistani officials, knew about bin Laden’s whereabouts.
Since the operation that killed bin Laden, both the Washington Post and the New York Times have quoted senior Pakistani officials as saying that former President Pervez Musharraf as well as then-ISI Chief Lt General Ziauddin Butt had full knowledge of bin Laden’s “internment” in Abbottabad.
In a March 2014 report, the New York Times even claimed that Musharraf had arranged to hide bin Laden as far back as 2006 in the hope of leveraging him against extremists in Pakistan.
The claims have lent credence to doubts expressed by security experts around the world who have questioned how the Pakistani security establishment failed to notice that the world’s most-wanted man was hiding out just miles away from a Pakistan Army Academy as well as a nuclear weapons training facility.